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"Enchanted" Cooks Turn to Natural Turkey for Thanksgiving

November 22, 2010

DIXON, N.M. - Many cooks in New Mexico are enchanted by the idea of serving "sustainable" Thanksgiving meals this year, using naturally raised turkeys. That's because leading medical groups have been expressing concern that the overuse of antibiotics in animal production is creating new strains of bacteria difficult to treat in people.

Bob Martin, senior officer with the Pew Environment Group, directed a two-and-a-half-year study on farm animal production.

"Our number one public health recommendation was to eliminate the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animal production."

Martin says at least 70 percent of the antibiotics purchased in the United States are used on healthy animals to prevent illness due to overcrowding and poor waste management. Some meat industry experts argue that there is not enough evidence that antibiotics in animals cause health problems in humans. Still, many people choose to buy only free-range, antibiotic-free turkeys for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Some consumers complain that "natural" turkeys are too expensive, but local producers say finding a bird that's raised in New Mexico might not be as expensive or hard to find as you think. David Rigsby, owner of Embudo Valley Organics near Dixon, raises turkeys.

"I don't think it's that much more trouble. People who are into conventional productions of all sorts think they can't do it. I don't think that we're set back at all."

Many co-ops and grocers carry New Mexico-raised foods, often at very little or no extra expense over conventional, factory-farmed foods.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM